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Daily Archives: July 23rd, 2011

Karl Marx




“A landmark in comparative literature in Britain.”  — George Steiner

“One of the most important books about Marx yet written in English” –- TRIBUNE

“A learned, useful and entertaining book” –- TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT


“Very few men”, said Bakunin, “have read as much, and, it may be added, have read as intelligently, as M. Marx.” Indeed, Moses Hess encouraged followers to ‘‘Imagine Rousseau, Voltaire, Holbach, Lessing, Heine, and Hegel fused into one person – I say fused, not juxtaposed – and you have Dr. Marx’.

S. S. Prawer’s highly influential work explores the overlooked ways in which the world of imaginative literature—poems, novels, plays—infused and shaped Marx’s writings, from his unpublished correspondence, to his pamphlets and major works.

In exploring Marx’s use of literary texts, from Aeschylus to Balzac, and the central role of art and literature in the development of his critical vision, KARL MARX AND WORLD LITERATURE is a forensic masterpiece of critical analysis. Illuminating Marx’s dealings with literature, Prawer makes an incomparable contribution to the understanding of a mind that has helped to shape our world.

Beginning with Marx’s engagement with poetry and myth in his early education, Prawer traces Marx’s life-long relationship to literature to uncover how his early allegiances to Romantic modes of writing and thinking and a late adoption of Hegelian philosophy merged to create his critical vision. Arguing that Marx’s most famous political concepts, particularly that of ‘alienation’ and ‘reification,’ have poetic, literary origins, Prawer delves into Marx’s writings in order to demonstrate Marx’s understanding of metaphor, inspiration, and conflict inherent in the world literary tradition.

Arguing that Marx’s political writings, in particular THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, are in fact deeply influenced by literature, Prawer attests that Marx built on Goethe’s concept of ‘Weltliteratur’. Affirming that Marx held a view that literature is to be sent into the world to be taken into the hearts of well-disposed readers around the world, Prawer illuminates Marx’s understanding of literature as a tool to raise understanding of continuity and difference:

The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures there arises a world literature. -Marx

Liberally quoting from Marx’s own writings and the literary texts he engaged with to provide a well-rounded history of the formulation of the ideas and expressions that shaped Marx’s later social criticism, Prawer’s text creates an impeccably balanced cultural history. Blending history, literary criticism and cultural theory, Prawer’s ground-breaking work provides astonishing insight into the imaginary life of one of the most influential figures of the nineteenth century, and remains highly unique and relevant 35 years after it was originally published.


Professor S. S. Prawer is Taylor Emeritus Professor of German Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford. He is the author of over 20 books, including CALIGARI’S CHILDREN, A CULTURAL CITIZEN OF THE WORLD: SIGMUND FREUD’S KNOWLEDGE AND USE OF BRITISH AND AMERICAN WRITING, and KARL MARX AND WORLD LITERATURE.


ISBN: 978 1 84467 710 8 / $29.95 / £16.99 / $37.50 CAN / Paperback / 480 pages


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Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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